On this week's Parenting With Playdate Planet radio show, I tackled the subject of bullying with expert, J Richard Knapp of Stop-Bullies.com. I put off doing this show for some time because I felt that the subject was getting so much coverage already from the media that perhaps additional discussion wasn't necessary. As I listened to the coverage, however, I realized that it wasn't fully addressing my questions as a parent. There's been extensive talk about bullying as a societal problem, and extensive talk about eradicating bullying, but I haven't found the answers that I was looking for as a parent. What do we do to keep our children safe? How do we avoid raising a bully? When and how should we intervene if we find out our child is a victim?
My children have been fortunate not to have yet faced bullying from peers, but it is my opinion that their middle school teachers have become lax with how they speak to kids and, in fact, on certain occasions, one has bullied my son. In reflecting on this, and after my interview with Jim Knapp, I think that perhaps the most important thing that schools can do to address this issue is to ensure that every administrator, and every teacher, always demonstrates appropriate interactions with students and one another. If teachers are permitted to be disrespectful to their students, they are establishing a culture that values leadership through power rather than leadership by example. If those in charge of a school or a classroom shame students, they are sending the message that it is okay to make a point or elevate oneself at the expense of another. In essence, they are teaching students to bully!
When my son was ridiculed in his classroom by a teacher for no apparent reason, one of his middle school peers had the strength of character to find this conduct reprehensible. After the class ended, she gathered up a few friends for moral support, and this soft-spoken youngster returned to the classroom to tell that teacher she did not think she had spoken to my son appropriately. And she asked that teacher not to do that again. That child is wise beyond her years in recognizing that we cannot be bystanders when others are being treated inappropriately.
What do you think are steps that we can take to turn the tide against bullying?